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Kuri is an adorable robotic buddy you’ll actually want (but can’t have until later this year)

(TECH NEWS) Start saving your pocket money now, fellow nerds. It’s time to have a robot in the family.

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The future is pretty great

Kuri is the household robot we’ve all been waiting for. Chances are by now you’ve already been at someone’s house when they, with a special little twinkle in their eye, said something like “Alexa, change the volume to three” and then looked around, beaming like a new parent, as if to say: isn’t this great? We are in the future.

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Pixar-designed and chirpy

And it’s true. Finally some of the sci-fi dreams of our childhoods seem possible. But never has there been quite an *~*omg kawaii*~* domestic bot moment as the announcement of Kuri from Mayfield Robots. Generations that grew up with R2D2 or Rosie Jetson might finally have a product to drool over.

If Kuri reminds you of Wall-E or other cute robots from animated films, it might be because Mayfield actually hired a Pixar animator to assist with the design.

So what does Kuri do? Kuri rolls around on three wheels, responds to voice commands, and has a camera behind one of his expressive eyes that you can use to check on pets or your house from afar.

Kuri has speakers too, but doesn’t talk. Instead, it responds with little chirps and colored lights on its adorable tum-tum-tummy. This is an interesting choice, franky, I think it’s brilliant. With Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, its easy to get frustrated or even be tempted to abuse the personalities when they give you bad directions or search results. Not that I have ever done so.

But Kuri looks like the love child of a puppy and a vacuum cleaner. Only a monster could get mad at a face like that.

“Each inclination of Kuri’s head, each blink of its eye, its body shape and its pacing and locomotion design were all carefully considered, with the thought in mind of building something that was not necessarily optimally efficient or functional, but that was approachable, calming and inviting.” –Darrell Etherington

Under the hood

Kuri has a four-microphone array in its vaguely conical body that allows it to pick up sounds from anywhere in the room. It has sensors that keep it from bumping into things as it follows you around the house. It’s got a powerful processor and uses tools like IFTTT so you can program it to expand and customize it’s features.

What sort of customizations? Well, it can follow you around and play a podcast, it can read to your kids at night, it can play games and wake you up in the morning. Mayfield’s focus was on design and personality more than third party integrations, but you can bet they will follow quickly after the release day. Which, by the way, is pretty soon.

Mayfeild Robotics says Kuri will be ready for purchase at $699 before next Christmas and you can preorder it now with a $100 deposit. Start saving your pocket money now, fellow nerds. It’s time to have a robot in the family.

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Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

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  1. Pingback: The EU preps for the future with talks on robot ethics and laws - The American Genius

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Make it harder for Facebook to track you around the web

(TECH NEWS) Facebook remains in hot water, but you can make a simple choice that puts you in control of your data. Check it out.

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facebook container

Firefox has long been an industry leader in security, which is why it’s no surprise that they’re the first large browser to roll out an anti-tracking add-on geared toward making life difficult for everyone’s favorite social media platform: Facebook.

Facebook Container is a deceptively powerful add-on, allowing you to prevent Facebook from tracking and analyzing your browsing behavior while you navigate around the Internet. After installing it in Firefox like any other add-on, you log into your Facebook account inside of the container; from that point on, any Facebook tracking will be confined to the Container tab in which you’re using FB.

The primary purpose of the add-on is, of course, to limit the amount of information that Facebook can extrapolate from your browsing history. There’s still plenty of information that you can give to Facebook simply by scrolling through your News Feed page, but at least they won’t know what size of underwear you’re buying.

Another obvious ramification of using Facebook Container is its ad-blocking capabilities. Unlike a traditional ad-blocker, it won’t force-hide ads; instead, it will hide your activity, meaning you’ll see fewer targeted ads based on your browsing activity and habits. This is likely to cut down on frustration from users who feel inappropriately targeted or singled out by the social media giant’s often-invasive ads.

In addition to its numerous qualities, it also comes with a few downsides—though for the privacy-minded, they’ll probably not feel like game-changers. The main issue is that sharing buttons and those cute little “Like” buttons you see all over the Internet won’t work when you use the add-on since you’ll be logged out of FB everywhere else in Firefox.

Naturally, using the social media buttons outside of the Firefox add-on kind of defeats the purpose of using the add-on to begin with, so this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

You also won’t be able to log into websites that use your FB login information as a credential automatically, which—as Mozilla puts it on the product page—is “to be expected.”

If you’re the kind of person who says “I’d delete my social media accounts, but I need it to stay in contact with so-and-so,” at least once a week, this add-on for Firefox may be for you—and, even if you aren’t a Firefox user, their browser updates over the past six months make switching worth a try.

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Experts warn of actual AI risks – we’re about to live in a sci fi movie

(TECH NEWS) A new report on AI indicates that the sci fi dystopias we’ve been dreaming up are actually possible. Within a few short years. Welp.

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AI robots

Long before artificial intelligence (AI) was even a real thing, science fiction novels and films have warned us about the potentially catastrophic dangers of giving machines too much power.

Now that AI actually exists, and in fact, is fairly widespread, it may be time to consider some of the potential drawbacks and dangers of the technology, before we find ourselves in a nightmarish dystopia the likes of which we’ve only begun to imagine.

Experts from the industry as well as academia have done exactly that, in a recently released 100-page report, “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, Mitigation.”

The report was written by 26 experts over the course of a two-day workshop held in the UK last month. The authors broke down the potential negative uses of artificial intelligence into three categories – physical, digital, or political.

In the digital category are listed all of the ways that hackers and other criminals can use these advancements to hack, phish, and steal information more quickly and easily. AI can be used to create fake emails and websites for stealing information, or to scan software for potential vulnerabilities much more quickly and efficiently than a human can. AI systems can even be developed specifically to fool other AI systems.

Physical uses included AI-enhanced weapons to automate military and/or terrorist attacks. Commercial drones can be fitted with artificial intelligence programs, and automated vehicles can be hacked for use as weapons. The report also warns of remote attacks, since AI weapons can be controlled from afar, and, most alarmingly, “robot swarms” – which are, horrifyingly, exactly what they sound like.

Read also: Is artificial intelligence going too far, moving too quickly?

Lastly, the report warned that artificial intelligence could be used by governments and other special interest entities to influence politics and generate propaganda.

AI systems are getting creepily good at generating faked images and videos – a skill that would make it all too easy to create propaganda from scratch. Furthermore, AI can be used to find the most important and vulnerable targets for such propaganda – a potential practice the report calls “personalized persuasion.” The technology can also be used to squash dissenting opinions by scanning the internet and removing them.

The overall message of the report is that developments in this technology are “dual use” — meaning that AI can be created that is either helpful to humans, or harmful, depending on the intentions of the people programming it.

That means that for every positive advancement in AI, there could be a villain developing a malicious use of the technology. Experts are already working on solutions, but they won’t know exactly what problems they’ll have to combat until those problems appear.

The report concludes that all of these evil-minded uses for these technologies could easily be achieved within the next five years. Buckle up.

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This app takes a picture of who stole your device, we are in love

(TECH NEWS) Prey is the ultimate answer to combat a stolen device – going on the offense is sometimes the best defense.

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stolen device report

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to worry about your phone or computer being stolen – and, in the event that it was stolen, your device’s “Find My Device” app would be enough.

Unfortunately, prophylaxis is the best (and often only) defense against smartphone thieves, which is why an app called Prey is a head above the pack.

Prey takes the process one step further: it takes a picture of the person who stole your phone and uploads it to a server for your viewing “convenience” (we’re assuming that not much about your current situation is convenient if your smartphone’s gone). This both alerts you to the identity of the person if you know them, or at least gives you a face to show to law enforcement.

Prey’s packed with other features as well, including the ability to entirely wipe your device or pull up coordinates on a world map.

Perhaps the coolest side effect of Prey is its ability to generate far more data for a police report than related apps.

While Find My iPhone and similar services can generate a location and allow you to wipe your device, Prey can use the front and rear cameras for thief identification, retrieve files, take screenshots, and pull up local IP addresses and Wi-Fi networks.

Unlike proprietary device GPS apps, Prey works on all four of the major operating systems (and even Linux, if that’s the kind of person you are), making it much easier for you to streamline your recovery efforts should you lose more than one device at a time.

We wouldn’t wish losing a bag full of your precious electronics on many, but it’s not impossible.

As with any technology, there’s a downside to Prey, and in this case, it’s the sheer potential for damage, should Prey’s data access be compromised. The ability to find one’s location and details such as IP addresses and networks is extremely concerning, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica incident – and while Prey asserts that your device’s data won’t even be examined unless you request the service, it’s still a troubling potentiality.

If you’re worried about losing your device(s) and you’re looking for that extra nail in the coffin should you need it, you can check out Prey’s pricing on their website.

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